Daily rush-hour commuters may be surprised to learn they’re living in one of the top 10 driver-friendly cities – but four North Carolina cities have earned that honor.
The personal finance website WalletHub just released a list called “2015’s Best and Worst Cities to Be a Driver,” and Greensboro is the top-rated North Carolina city, at number four.
Durham is rated at number four among U.S. cities, while Winston-Salem is ranked at number nine, and Raleigh is number 10.
WalletHub’s rankings are based on average gas prices, average annual traffic delays, rates of car theft and car clubs per capita.
The number one city for driving, according to WalletHub, is Lubbock, TX.
Ranking lowest among the list of one hundred most populated cities is good old New York, NY.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/four-nc-cities-make-wallethubs-most-driver-friendly-list/
The funeral arrangements for legendary Tar Heel and ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott have been set for this weekend in Raleigh.
Scott died, on Sunday, after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.
The family has requested donations be made in his name to the Jimmy V Foundation.http://chapelboro.com/news/obituaries/funeral-arrangements-set-stuart-scott/
As you may have noticed at the pump recently, gasoline prices have fallen by 35% over the last few months, from just below $4.00 per gallon down to around $2.60, a five-year low. During this same time period, the price of petroleum, the raw material from which gasoline is made, has dropped from $110 to $70 per barrel. A quick calculation shows, unsurprisingly, that the percent reduction in the price of gasoline is nearly identical to the percentage drop in the price of petroleum. In order to understand why gasoline prices have dropped, we need to examine why petroleum prices have dropped.
Petroleum (or oil) is a global commodity, and its price is extremely sensitive to the balance of supply and demand. Back in 2011, global supply and demand for petroleum were roughly in balance, at approximately 91 million barrels a day (MMbbl/d) each. While these conditions existed, the price for a barrel of oil hovered in a narrow range near to $110 per barrel.
The breakdown of the approximate world oil supply from 2011 is shown below:
|Rest of OPEC||20||22%|
The United States uses about 19 MMbbl/d of petroleum, so back in 2011 we were producing 8 MMbbl/d (42%) of this demand and importing the other 11 (58%).
Since 2011, petroleum production in the U.S. has increased from 8 to 11 MMbbl/d, an increase of more than 30%. Since our use remains at about 19 MMbbl/d of oil, our import and export percentages have flip-flopped, with domestic supply at 58% and imports at 42%.
The increased petroleum production in the U.S. has allowed us to supplant Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest supplier of oil, and our operations have increased the global petroleum supply by about 3%, from 91 to 94 MMbbl/d. A three percent increase may not sound like much, but as I mentioned above, commodity prices are strongly influenced by the supply and demand balance. Therefore, even this seemingly small increase in supply has driven the price of a barrel of oil down from $110 to $70 per barrel.
The reason that the U.S. has been able to dramatically increase its oil production can be summarized in one word: fracking. In case you have been living in a hole (pun intended) for the past few years, fracking is the process of shattering underground rock with a high-pressure mix of water, sand, and toxic chemicals to liberate oil and gas trapped within. Since these rock formations are usually made of shale, the resulting oil is often called “shale oil.” For the past several years, thousands and thousands of fracking wells have been drilled all over the country, particularly in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Texas. Here in North Carolina, the General Assembly is rapidly pushing through legislation to allow fracking to begin here as well.
Financially speaking, an increase of 3 million barrels a day of oil production is a really, really big deal, in that it results in an increase in revenue to the U.S. oil industry of 100 trillion dollars a year! However, to really understand the economic and political implications of the increase in U.S. petroleum production, we need to discuss why I underlined the word revenue above.
While revenue is nice, what companies really need is profit, which is revenue minus expenses. Unfortunately for U.S. oil companies, fracking for shale oil is a very expensive enterprise. It costs about $70-75 to produce a barrel of oil from a fracking operation, compared to less than $40 for a traditional oil well. As you can imagine, when the price of oil was $110 per barrel, U.S. frackers were quite pleased to be making a profit of $40 per barrel. So pleased, it turns out, that they got overzealous, drilled too many wells, and the resulting over-supply drove the price way down.
Now that the price of oil has dropped to $70 per barrel, profits from fracking operations have dropped to zero. Given that drilling companies borrow huge sums of money to drill these wells, and that the banks who loaned the money want to be paid back, this situation is rather problematic to say the least.
To alleviate their difficulties, U.S. oil companies want Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC to cut back their own production to reduce supply and drive the price of oil back up. Since the Saudis have traditional rather than fracking wells, they still make a healthy profit at $70 per barrel. For the moment, they have rebuffed requests from the U.S., as have all of the world’s other noteworthy oil producing nations. I suspect that they are extracting a bit of revenge on U.S. companies as payback for their role in creating the oversupply situation in the first place.
It is unclear how long the Saudis, the big dog at OPEC, will maintain their current stance. If I were a betting man (and I most certainly am), I would bet that somewhere in a smoky room in Riyadh, negotiations are ongoing to determine what concessions the Saudis require before agreeing to cut back their production.
If you live in North Carolina and are hopeful that fracking will not commence there, I’d suggest that you root for the Saudis to remain obstinate. At $70 a barrel for oil, no one will start a new fracking operation, particularly in a zone with modest production potential like the Tar Heel State. So the next time you fill up your tank at $2.60 per gallon, consider pausing for a moment to think about what that really means.
Have a comment or question? Use the interface below or send me an email to email@example.com. Think that this column includes important points that others should consider? Share this column on Facebook or Twitter. Want more Common Science? Follow me on Twitter on @Commonscience.http://chapelboro.com/columns/common-science/fracking-raleigh-riyadh-connection/
Originally posted 5:03 p.m., July 29, 2014
A Chapel Hill man is in Wake County Detention Center on $390,000 bail, on charges of misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury, and felony malicious maiming after he allegedly tried to bite his girlfriend’s tongue off during a fight on July 18. The bite reportedly caused permanent damage.
The News & Observer is reporting that 29-year-old Luke Lazarus Marion IV of 102 Isley Street in Chapel Hill was also charged with resisting an officer, when he was arrested on July 19th.
Police say Marion smashed his girlfriend’s cell phone when she tried to call for help, so he was charged with interfering with emergency communications.
A woman claiming to be a friend of the woman whose tongue was allegedly bitten by her boyfriend says permanent damage has been done and surgery will be necessary.
The friend told WCHL in an email that the victim’s frenulum—the piece of skin extending from the floor of the mouth to the midline of the underside of the tongue—was completely severed. She said there was also massive damage to the nerves in her tongue as well as taste buds.
She said, to her knowledge, the victim was not kissing Marion at the time, rather the assault stemmed from an attack.
Marion posted bail and was released from Wake County Detention Center, but was re-arrested on July 23rd for violating release conditions.
Marion has upcoming court appearances in three counties. He’s due in Orange County District Court on August 4 on charges of being drunk and disruptive, and resisting arrest by a Chapel Hill Police officer on April 21st.
He was arrested again by Chapel Hill police the next day for speeding and driving a vehicle with canceled license plates; for driving while impaired and without a license; for leaving the scene of an accident; for missing a court date that month; and for resisting an officer.
Marion will be back in Wake County court on August 5th, for a court hearing on charges of fleeing to elude, driving with a revoked license and driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
Another Wake County court appearance is scheduled on August 11th for several traffic-related charges and resisting arrest. And on August 28th, Marion will be in New Hanover County Court for allegedly driving while impaired and driving with a revoked license.
Lumina News reports that on May 25th, a 28-year-old white male named Luke Lazarus Marion was arrested by Wrightsville Beach Police while fleeing, after he allegedly hit a 47-year-old woman, poured wine on her, and threw a jellyfish on her at Johnny Mercer’s Pier.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-man-accused-biting-girlfriends-tongue-held-390k-bail/
Local elected officials say they’ll have to cut services, especially in the school systems, to make up for the budget cuts, which County Commissioner Penny Rich says were done to hurt the local governments.
“We know that the state is purposefully taking money away from school systems to make us suffer,” Rich says. “It’s not to make something better; it’s to make us suffer and to make us spend our money.”
Budget discussions between Orange County and the schools systems begin Tuesday.
Chapel-Carrboro school board member James Barrett says these cuts are moves by legislators that go against what the state constitution says is our foundation.
“Our state constitution is very clear that the responsibility of providing a sound education for all of our students lies in the general assembly, and they are passing on that,” Barrett says.
While raising taxes increases the amount of money going out of a household budget, former Mayor of Carrboro and Register of Deeds candidate Mark Chilton says cuts to the state budget have done more harm.
“There (are) a lot of households whose household budgets have been hit hard by the legislature as well,” Chilton says. “Up until a few months ago, I was working in the nonprofit sector, and every day seeing people come into our office who were single moms who were just barely scabbing it together with whatever resources they could find. We’re seeing the resources available declining rapidly. It puts people in some very tough situations.”
Federal cuts piled on the state cuts with things like reduced food stamp funding healthcare benefits. Rich adds that the cuts are sending more people below the poverty line.
“We turn more people in our county into working poor, instead of knowing that we can help them get above that,” Rich says. “We talked a little bit about public education, but it’s also (about) higher education. I have a son who’s at App State: the first semester, his food plan was not taxed; the second semester, his food plan was taxed. How are we helping our families in North Carolina let their kids get higher education?”
Chapel Hill Town Council member Ed Harrison says the General Assembly cut off the legs of the local governments when it not only cut the budget, but it also reduced the authority of the governing bodies.
“For a city or town, particularly, because we do not have home rule—nor do counties—that’s been the major impact, because we entered the session without having home rule and the General Assembly majority just piled on higher and deeper,” Harrison says. “They took away what little authority we thought we had, in some cases. For instance, in the City of Durham case, the ability to control who gets their water and sewer.”
What’s the solution? Council member Lee Storrow says the move that Raleigh is making now is just for show.
“In Orange County and across the state, local governments are having to find ways to increase revenue or increase taxes,” Storrow says. “ So it’s easy to say, at a superficial level, ‘look how great it is that we haven’t raised taxes’, but they’re just passing the buck onto local leaders and local governing bodies.”
He says with state and local elections right around the corner, there are places where Democrats can sneak in and take back part of the legislature.
“I appreciate the importance of finding creative solutions, and that’s incredibly valuable,” Storrow says. “But if we want to maintain the values that we care about in Orange County and in North Carolina, we are going to have to do work to support candidates who are in winnable districts, who can help move the legislature in a different direction.”
Rich says until that’s accomplished, the local governments have to show whatever support they can to those who are taking hits from the budget cuts.
“It’s really important that we get behind these people and they should know that we’re going to be there for them, even though monies are cut,” Rich says. “Can we set up some public-private partnerships? Can we get someone to donate paint? Can we support something like that? So, the money is the most important, but if we can’t give them money, we’ll be there for them to direct them to the right people that can help them with donated good.”
***Listen to the Raleigh to Orange Forum Hour***
Click here for all of the 2014 Community Forum stories.http://chapelboro.com/news/2014-community-forum/take-back-budget/
Your days of waiting for videos to buffer or uploading attachments may be over soon as competition is growing for which data provider is going to offer internet speeds up to 100 times faster than your current provider.
“AT&T already has a large fiber footprint in the region—that’s one of the reasons it made it such an attractive partner,” says Marc Hoit, the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology at N.C. State and a spokesperson for the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN). “With that, they have the ability to jump start and do things faster. We’re hoping some of those connections start before the end of this year.”
The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro along with UNC agreed in January of last year to join four other municipalities and three other major universities to ratify NCNGN. According to its website, NCNGN is a “regional initiative focused on stimulating the deployment of next generation broadband networks in North Carolina.” It’s also comprised of Durham, Cary, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem; Duke and Wake Forest round out the group.
According to Gizmodo, a design and technology blog, the Triangle averages internet speeds between 10.9 and 14.6 megabits per second. The ultra-high-speed internet option of one-gigabit per second would be 70-100 times greater than those averages.
“If you think of how long it takes to download a movie or if you’re doing education content with the university and doing streaming, some of the things that you want to do with offsite stuff like Google Apps and Documents and Microsoft SkyDrive and download music and your save your music up in the cloud, if you have a one gig file and you’re up at a gig, it takes a second,” Hoit says.
Hoit says NCNGN sees ultra-high-speed internet changing the world of medicine.
“We’re hoping to see things like medical diagnostics live, hi-resolution video used for medical services or for other types of services that you can do diagnostics and use that high-speed stream,” Hoit says.
Another positive aspect of fiber-optic internet is downloading and uploading speeds are the same. With Google fiber or AT&T U-verse with GigaPower, you could receive or send files big and small in almost no time. For example, you could download a full-length, high-definition movie in about 30 seconds.
“The symmetric version is really important from our standpoint, because as you want to work with all these new services that people are doing and putting your music in the cloud; if somebody’s in a studio and creating music and then wants to put it up and to be served somewhere else, you need that upload speed just as much,” Hoit says.
Google offered its first fiber-optic internet service in Kansas City, Missouri in 2012. It later expanded to Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas. In mid-February, the internet giant announced it was considering Triangle cities as places to expand the ultra-high-speed option.
Time Warner Cable said last year that it plans to extend the next level of service sometime in the near future.
Of course, the prices for these ultra-high speed options could be higher. Google fiber in Kansas City is selling its product at $70 per month for internet alone. It is, however, currently waiving its $300 construction fee to customers who sign up.
“Our expectation is to be priced similar to what you’re seeing in Kansas City and in Austin,” Hoit says. “The price depends on the costs and other things, but it should be very close to that same price.”
The next step for the municipalities and universities within NCNGN is to review the terms and agreements of the plan to continue the process.
Carrboro elected officials will likely vote in mid-May on the plan; Chapel Hill leaders have not decided on a date when they will vote on the plan. However, Hoit says the next step should be fairly seamless.
“It’s been a two, two-and-a-half year process of which the municipalities and the universities have been working together through this whole time,” Hoit says. “It will hopefully not come as a surprise. The municipal lawyers have all been involved, so there’s been a lot of collaboration that we’re hoping everything goes smoothly.”http://chapelboro.com/news/development/fiber-internet-2014/
National Weather Service Senior Forecaster Scott Sharp says once the cold front moves through the Triangle between 7:00 and 7:30 Monday morning, we should expect rain to switch to sleet at about midday.
WCHL’s Ron Stutts spoke with Sharp during the WCHL Monday Morning News.
***Listen to the Interview***http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/cold-front-bring-frozen-precipitation/
RALEIGH – Another winter storm is heading for the Triangle, but its severity is still unknown.
WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Barrett Smith about when the winter weather will start and how long it will last.
***Listen to the Interview***
A hazardous weather outlook is in place for the area through mid-week. Click here for more details.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/another-dose-winter-weather-aiming-triangle/
From Maria Palmer.
Last weekend I participated in the innagural WW Finlator Lectures in Faith & Social Justice at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. The church Bill Finlator pastored for 3 decades celebrated his legacy as one of the great American prophets of the 20th Century. Thank you, Pullen, for an inspiring weekend and for reminding us that we have so much work to do.
It is easy for us privileged Chapel Hillians to think that our actions are always consistent with the highest ethical standards. We don’t break the law. We recycle. We donate money to great causes. I am sure, many of us also pray for justice and for the poor on a regular basis.
But justice is NOT like the climate, something we can call “an act of God.” Justice (or injustice) is the result of our collective decisions. Bill Finlator reminded us that the Bible calls us to DO justice. When we fail to protect women and girls from sexual violence; when one third of our county’s residents are low-income and thousands are uninsured; when one in five children in Orange Co. are living in poverty, I think we may be failing to DO justice.
As we welcome Chancellor Carol Folt, I take hope. After all, UNC president Tom Ross has said she meets his criteria of “unwavering integrity” and somewone who will “always stand for what is right.”
What is right, Dr. Folt, is leading UNC and the community in doing justice. What is right, is paying UNC workers a living wage, what is right is protecting women—students and employees—against abuse and sexual violence. What is right is celebrating and thanking whistle-blowers, not harassing or firing them. They are the heroes who will make our University great. What is right is mobilizing the brain power of our expert Educators to close the achievement gap in our schools. What is right is giving the children of our lowest-paid workers access to the resources of our great university for tutoring, to attend summer programs and enrichment opportunities that bring wealthy children from across the US to our campus. What is right is giving poor children in our community the help they need so that they can attend UNC, not because they pulled themselves up but their non-existent bootstraps, but because the University refused to stand by while children of color are channeled into a permanent underclass. What is right, Dr. Folt, is to find a way to provide adequate health care and transportation for the workers in this community that will make it possible for you to do great things.
Chancellor Folt. Welcome to Chapel Hill. We expect great things from you!http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/welcome-chancellor-folt/
Ready or not, spring is here and it is time for a seasonal update on new books important to North Carolinians.
This month’s most important literary news is the release of “Life After Life,” popular author Jill McCorkle’s first novel in 17 years. McCorkle fills a southeastern North Carolina retirement facility with quirky residents, staff, and visitors whose encounters with each other make readers wonder whether to laugh or cry. She will be the guest on North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on Sunday, March 31 and Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m.
Understanding the actions and attitudes of our parents and grandparents in dealing with the system of oppressive racial segregation that confronted them is one of our great challenges. Some of the best Southern writers deal with our past in ways that make for compelling storytelling. UNC-Chapel Hill creative writing professor Pam Durban steps up to that challenge in her new novel, “The Tree of Forgetfulness.” (April 7, 11)
The recent temporary closings of the Hatteras Ferry and coastal Highway 12 remind us that our coast is fragile and unstable. How do we protect it? In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future,” retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs and his coauthors give the background we need to make good decisions. (April 14, 18)
Vicki Lane sets her popular novels on the farms and small towns in mountainous Madison County north of Asheville, where she and her husband have lived since moving there from Tampa, Florida, in 1975. In “Under the Skin,” she turns her mountain surroundings into compelling fiction. (April 21, 25)
The third and final volume of the “Literary Trails of North Carolina” series establishes Georgann Eubanks as the master guide to our state’s literary history. She has already taken us to Murphy and now in “Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina: A Guidebook,” she takes us from Raleigh through the Coastal Plain all the way to Manteo. (April 28, May 2)
Everyone knows our health care system is in trouble, but UNC Medical School Professor Nortin Hadler is more specific and troubling when he says that conflicts of interest, misrepresentation of clinical trials, hospital price fixing, and massive expenditures for procedures of dubious efficacy point to the need for an overhaul. Who is responsible? Every citizen, says Hadler, has a duty to understand the existing system and to visualize what the outcome of successful reform might look like. Hadler provides a primer and guide to action in “The Citizen Patient: Reforming Health Care for the Sake of the Patient, Not the System.” (May 5, 9)
Do you remember “Big Fish,” the wonderful novel by Daniel Wallace and the movie it inspired? They made us suspend disbelief and go into a magical world of stories and characters. Wallace has done it again in his latest novel, “The Kings and Queens of Roam,” which is full of the magic he uses to draw us into his worlds of imagination. (May 12, 16)
How could one of North Carolina’s most important political leaders be both a progressive champion for education and economic development and, at the same time, the leader of the white supremacy movement in our state? N.C. State Professor Lee Craig wrestles with this challenging question in his new book, “Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times.” (May 19, 23)
In reviewing Duke Professor William Chafe’s “Bill and Hillary,” Jonathan Yardley wrote, about the Clintons, “No personalities in recent history speak more compellingly to the importance of understanding that the personal and the political are inseparable.” Chafe’s detailed study of the relationship between the power couple of all power couples shows how their relationship shaped our history. (May 26, 29)
Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes” is a guide to finding the best seasonal foods in our region. She organizes her recipes into about 40 chapters, each featuring a different vegetables or fruit.
More about Sheri Castle:
Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”
Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.
Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”
But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”